4-H water projects are making a splash in Ohio, around nation

OSU, CFAES, 4-H, AG Innovators Experience

Ohio 4-H is leading efforts to help youths gain a deeper understanding of one of the most vital 21st century concerns: assuring access to fresh, clean water.

Water is rising in prominence in Ohio 4-H youth development activities.

In the Water Windmill Challenge, teams create mock-ups of wind-operated water supply systems.

“There are many possibilities of how to meet the challenge,” said creator Bob Horton, Ohio 4-H specialist. “If their structure fails, students quickly want to reinvent it. They don’t realize it, but this activity introduces them to engineering.”

 In Ways of Knowing Water, a project idea starter for individual 4-H members, activities help youths sharpen awareness about their local watershed and where their household water originates.
Meera Nadathur, 15, of Hamilton County, took the Ways of Knowing Water project and plans to study environmental sciences in college
“With 4-H, you get to actually experience what you’re learning
about,” she said. “You don’t just learn by reading about it. It really enhances the whole experience.”

In a new idea starter, Field to Faucet: Nutrients, Sediment and Water Quality, activities focus on preventing harmful algal blooms. Co-author and 4-H educator Jackie Krieger said, “For many around the world who have little access to fresh, clean water, we owe our best science and dedicated action to understanding this basic human need. Who knows what spark might be ignited in the minds of 4-H members by these activities?”


OSU Extension’s 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program is making a mark regionally and nationally by developing projects including:

  • The Water Windmill Challenge. In 2015, nearly 10,000 youths in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin participated in this challenge as part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, sponsored by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto.
  • The Fish Farm Challenge, which was named as the 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience. More than 8,000 youths engineered a system to evenly dispense soy-based fish food pellets in an aquaculture tank.
  • The 4-H National Youth Science Experiment, the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. Ohio 4-H created the activities used in this program in 2008 and 2012.

More: go.osu.edu/oh4hsci

Showing the benefits of tearing down dams: Healthier rivers, cleaner water

John Navarro poses along a restored stretch of the Olentangy River in Columbus. Removing a nearby obsolete dam helped key the restoration.

John Navarro poses along a restored stretch of the Olentangy River in Columbus. Removing a nearby obsolete dam helped key the restoration.

Tear down a dam, and a river will change. But how? And how much? To find out, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center scientists are looking in their own backyard.

Mazeika Sullivan and Kristin Jaeger are studying the impacts of dam removals at two former dams in Columbus: one on the Olentangy River on The Ohio State University’s Columbus campus, and another close by on the Scioto River. They’re documenting the exact changes seen in the rivers’ flow, biology and water quality.

“There’s a growing trend toward using dam removal to restore rivers, but studies documenting the rivers’ responses are limited,” said Sullivan.

“It’s logical to assume that removing a dam and restoring a river back to its natural state would provide an ecological boost,” said study sponsor John Navarro, program administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. “But until now, there have been few studies that quantify these benefits.”


  • Ohio has removed 60-plus dams in the past four decades, in large part to improve water quality.
  • A recent low-head dam removal project in Northeast Ohio, for example (not connected to the OARDC study), led to a previously impaired section of the Cuyahoga River meeting Ohio Environmental Protection Agency water quality standards within just six months — with fish diversity going up by 57 percent.
  • Dam removal cools a river’s water — about 6 degrees Fahrenheit in a previous study in Michigan — and restores its natural temperature range.
  • The improved water flow from dam removal keeps sediment from building up. Dam sediment can be full of accumulated toxins, including health threats such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
  • Sullivan and Jaeger’s research is partly funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Said Navarro, “The partnership between Ohio State and the ODNR Division of Wildlife, through the Ohio Biodiversity Conservation Partnership, supports the research being conducted by Mazeika and Kris, and will provide concrete evidence of the benefits of dam removals.”

More: go.osu.edu/RiverRestoration